Friday, 26 February 2016

Death by a thousand paper cuts....

"Angioedema is a ... type of swelling that affects deeper layers in your skin, often around your eyes and lips." - From

I had my first allergic reaction as described above when I was 5 years old and my body finally said "no" to Aspirin - baby Aspirin at that! It was the severe kind, where one's tongue and throat swell as well as the lips; and spending most of your life knowing that you can react like that to a common drug gives you a healthy respect for pharmaceuticals.

Conversely, I'm also a huge believer in better living through chemicals, at least if a medical professional is proffering said chemical. While my teen friends were experimenting, I was the poster child for "just say no". But I wimped out on menopause with 6 years of HRT, and agreed instantly to anti-depressants to go along with talk therapy when I needed them.

In the intervening 50 years since the Aspirin incident, I discovered that Ibuprofen was also out of the question following a similar (though less severe) reaction to that. Which left me with the "safe" anti-inflammatory, Naproxen.

For the past week, I have been dealing with my fifth episode of angioedema since October. I can no longer blame Naproxen for it since I haven't had a tablet since January 4th and the pharmacist I talked to on Monday assured me that it would have long ago left my system.

This time around, I swear my lips made me look like the love child of Angelina Jolie and Mick Jagger, though other people said it wasn't that bad. But the corners cracked and the swelling was crooked, as if some untrained plastic surgeon had gone to town on my mouth with a vial of Juvederm! If I wasn't careful, the blood would trickle from the left side and one would think I was a vampire who'd just had lunch.

Have you ever cut your lip while licking an envelope? Imagine that times 12!

Hot beverages are out of the question, they sting too much. I cause many a laugh in my office by putting a straw in my cup of coffee. The natural acids in fruit are painful - every piece goes on a fork and placed on my tongue so I can eat anything other than bananas.

The lactose in cream sauce stings, as do salty things - and acidic things are out of the question, including tomatoes, just for example.

Hot meals have to cool, cold meals have to warm....

I go through so much Aquaphor, I should buy stock in Beiersdorf AG, the parent company of Eucerin.

9 days out, my lips continued to crack and bleed and I have to soak a washcloth in warm water to exfoliate off the peeling bits twice a day.

There was one upside; a coworker complimented my beautiful full lips when I made a remark about the gorgeous lip gloss she was wearing.

With any luck, some of the fullness will last after the pain recedes; and this will be my last episode of angioedema.

August 2018 Update:  This post is from February 2016. Later that year, I underwent extensive allergy testing to see if there was something other than trees and related drugs that could be causing the swelling - but it turned up nothing.

The episode I describe above lasted THREE WEEKS!  That's the longest time it lasted. I've also had 2 long breaks with no episodes, from July to October 2017 (and doesn't it figure that I was having an episode when I went to my second Jeopardy audition) and 201 days from January to July in this year.

I had even gone to the doctor a few days before the angioedema returned this summer and told him that I thought it was gone.

The blood testing for C1 esterase inhibitors has been inconclusive - my levels are on the low side of normal, but not so low to explain the recurrence or to warrant the intensive and intrusive treatment of blood transfusions.

It's painful, it looks awful, and it's returned with a vengeance.

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